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What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the vast variety of life forms living on Earth. It includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems: not only the millions of different plants, animals and microbes that live on our planet, but also the genetic variations and traits within species (such as different crop varieties). The definition of biodiversity also refers to all the different kinds of ecosystems that exist on land and below water. The importance of biodiversity cannot be underestimated: it directly supports agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, and other economic activities that support our societies and economies at the global, regional and local level. These benefits include nutrient cycling, habitat provisioning, pollination, erosion control and climate regulation, according to the OECD. The question of what is biodiversity - the plants, animals, and species unseen to the human eye with which we coexist daily - bears a strong connection with sustainability in the realms of development and innovation.

Why is biodiversity important?

“Biodiversity” is simply the scientific way of saying “the variety of life on Earth,” from the smallest microbe to the tallest tree in the Amazon rainforest. The interaction of the planet’s 1.6 million cataloged species make up the ecosystems that clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. They also provide raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes. They sustain our economies and make life as we know it possible.
For an ecosystem to stay healthy, it needs biodiversity. Saving a species from extinction is more than just a noble cause. And it's not only the “superstar” species like gorillas and tigers that need to be saved. Our food production is made possible by the “heavy lifting” work of often little-known species of insects. The extinction of a single species could have an impact on an entire ecosystem that is vital to human well-being. 
Biodiversity is important in the countryside, farmland or forest, and is a key issue for urbanization as well. In addition to the loss of nature in terms of both species and habitat, urban areas can actually alter the local and regional climate as land use changes associated with urbanization have a major impact on temperature, precipitation, and the water cycle in and around urban areas.
Balanced ecosystems supported by biodiversity in an urban context provide natural solutions to many challenges that cities face by helping with clean air, water filtration, flood prevention, noise reduction, recreation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition, the role of urban biodiversity has clear and direct effects on human well-being, physical and psychological health, social and cultural health, and economic health and stability.

How to protect biodiversity?

The protection of biodiversity, defined as the conservation of the entire spectrum of living organisms in their various forms in their respective ecosystems, is a non-negotiable necessity under any circumstances, even within the context of economic development. How to protect biodiversity means developing agriculture, forestry, tourism, and many other activities while simultaneously finding ways to coexist with and protect animal and plant habitats. This can call for creating solutions that combine technology with protecting biodiversity.
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Enel X inaugurates rooftop Bee Garden

Three beehives and 180,000 bees contribute to urban biodiversity with pollination of 90 million flowers each day

The human impact on the planet, including climate change, is the biggest threat to biodiversity.


In other words, humans are slowly destroying the very conditions we need to continue to sustain life.


Therefore the three ways to protect biodiversity are:

  • Cut pollution and emissions
  • Limit the overdevelopment of land
  • Rebuild the natural habitat of plants, animals and insects where possible

What is urban biodiversity?

“Urban biodiversity” refers to the variety and variability among living organisms found in an urban environment and relative ecosystems. Urban areas are every bit as important as rural and forested areas in protecting this precious variety of plants, animals, and insects. A biodiversity and urbanization strategy looks for new ways to introduce nature-based solutions that promote biodiversity and help make cities resilient by mitigating microclimate, air quality, and generally improving the quality of life in cities. Protecting urban biodiversity is important because urban areas are one of the fastest growing ecosystems. If current trends continue, it is estimated that by 2050 the global urban population will be 70% or 6.3 billion, almost double the 3.5 billion city dwellers in the world in 2010, according to the United Nations. Most of this growth will occur in small and medium-sized cities, not megacities.
Ongoing Commitment to Biodiversity

Enel X’s Ongoing Commitment to Biodiversity

Three beehives find a haven on the roof at company headquarters in Rome

How can biodiversity benefit from sustainable development?

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Biodiversity is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. Biodiversity and sustainable development go hand-in-hand. Indeed, according to the UN, biodiversity is essential for continued human life, while sustainable development is needed to ensure that this life support system is maintained. But why is biodiversity important for sustainability? Simple: biodiversity provides us with many crucial products and services – including food, water, medicines, protection from coastal erosion and mitigation of climate change, with forests absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Healthy ecosystems also increase resilience and serve as natural buffers against extreme weather events such as droughts, storms, and other disasters.

How does biodiversity affect sustainability? Without biodiversity we would have no food to eat or clean water to drink, which means reaching key elements of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would be impossible. Equally important, managing, studying, caring for and teaching about biodiversity also provides jobs – a fundamental source of human sustainability. Biodiversity and sustainability, in other words, form a virtuous circle that enables fulfilling our needs in an environmentally responsible manner, ensuring there are abundant resources for present – and future – generations.

Examples of preserving biodiversity

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The pillars of our commitment to excellence: Health, Safety, Environment and Quality

The Collepardo Caves in central Italy, with their spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations, have long been an attraction for scientists and tourists alike.


The caves are also home to a large bat population that supports the ecosystem in the surrounding natural park. The local authorities decided to install a new lighting system featuring 198 LED light points with differentiated brightness for a specific function, adjusting to the tour path and the amount of natural light entering the cave. Hence, this solution safeguards the cave’s extremely fragile ecosystem, coupled with a 95% reduction in energy consumption.

Also in central Italy, a large building on the outskirts of Rome hosts three beehives with a total population of 180 thousand bees cultivated by Apicultura.it. Cities and companies around the world now host “urban beekeeping” areas that are safe havens for bees, far from the chemical pollution associated with industrial agriculture. Moreover, cities provide a particularly diverse range of nectar sources effectively supporting pollinator species.


Santiago, Chile offers two examples of how to protect biodiversity in an urban setting:

  • Parque Eduardo Frei Montalva, which has become Latin America's first Smart Plaza. Located at the crossroads between the municipalities of La Florida, Peñalolén, and Macul, this a 23,000-square-meter urban space where nature and park areas are dotted with cycling paths, children’s games, and exercise machines. The area offers a public 5G service, video surveillance and analysis cameras, sensors for air and noise pollution, as well as charging stations for EVs.
  • Santiago’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel boasts a living roof employing a mix of technology and urban biodiversity. The 21.6 kWp solar PV system meets the hotel's power needs, and two beehives, a greenhouse, eight fruit trees and a vegetable garden demonstrate how no space is too small to protect biodiversity.

In Lima, Peru, the Cajas nido del Bicentenario project creates breeding sites for bird species that can thrive in the urban environment. This project calls for 37 birdhouses, located in 11 of Lima’s urban conservation areas, helping local institutions bolster the city’s biodiversity levels.


Smart lighting systems in Brazil are engineered to lower the impact on sea life and the habitat of nocturnal species. Carbon emissions detection kits are distributed in Spain, and training and awareness courses are dedicated to such topics as urban biodiversity, emissions, and climate change.

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